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Diagnosis and treatment of acute renal failure in patients with cirrhosis.

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  • 1INSERM, U773, Centre de Recherche Biomédicale Bichat-Beaujon CRB3, and Service d'Hépatologie, Hôpital Beaujon, 92118 Clichy, France.


In patients with cirrhosis, acute renal failure is due to prerenal failure (a result of decreased renal perfusion) and tubular necrosis. There are 3 main causes of prerenal failure: 'true hypovolemia' (which complicates hemorrhage, gastrointestinal or renal fluid losses), sepsis, and type 1 hepatorenal syndrome (HRS). Prerenal failure may also be due to the administration of non-steroidal antiinflammatory drugs, or intravascular radiocontrast agents. Prerenal failure is reversible after restoration of renal blood flow. Treatments target the cause of hypoperfusion, and fluid replacement is used to treat 'non-HRS' prerenal failure. In patients with type 1 HRS with very low short-term survival rate, liver transplantation is the ideal treatment. Systemic vasoconstrictor therapy with terlipressin (combined with intravenous human albumin), noradrenaline (combined with albumin and furosemide) or midodrine (combined with octreotide and albumin) may improve renal function in patients with type 1 HRS waiting for liver transplantation. MARS (for Molecular Adsorbent Recirculating System) and the transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic shunt may also improve renal function in these patients. In patients with cirrhosis, acute tubular necrosis is mainly due to an ischemic insult to the renal tubules. Studies are needed on the natural course and treatment (e.g., renal-replacement therapy) of acute tubular necrosis in patients with cirrhosis.

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